Entrepreneurs and freelancers can’t see the future, but they do prepare for it. Planning, forward thinking and flexibility are key to keeping your business focused and helping you reach your goals.

Planning doesn’t sound that exciting, but it’s certainly en vogue in Hollywood.

Marvel’s Plan

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the ideal example. It started in 2008 with Iron Man and grew into more than a dozen interconnected films, with two or three new films coming out each year, plus several related TV series. Some are stand-alone superhero movies like Captain America, but there have also been several films that bring together multiple characters, such as the Avengers movies.

Hollywood has long been familiar with the money-making power of the franchise, whether it’s James Bond or The Fast and the Furious. But Marvel has taken it to an entirely new level, creating not just a linear series of sequels, but an entire interconnected universe.

Keeping multiple storylines consistent across so many movies and related properties is a monumental task that requires intricate planning and flexibility.

We see something similar in the way J.K. Rowling took five years to think up the world of Harry Potter and plot out all seven books in the series before she even started writing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Star Wars is now following the same example as they plan the new sequel trilogy of Episodes VII, VIII and IX, as well as stand alone movies such as Rogue One and the young Han Solo movie.

It all requires detailed planning and thinking further ahead than the next movie or story. In many cases, these creators have to leave room for change as new ideas or opportunities come up (like when Marvel reacquired the movie rights to Spider-Man from Sony and were able to include the character in Captain America: Civil War and the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming).

The idea is that you don’t just plant a tree, you plant an orchard.

Plan Your Business

The same idea applies to business. As an entrepreneur, you need to think long term and plan ahead. You need to make steady progress, while also being nimble enough to respond to new information.

Certainly most freelancers aren’t planning a multi-film arc, but they do want to stay in business one year, two years, five years from now.

The point is you need to plan where you’re going. You can’t get somewhere if you don’t chart a course to get there. There will always be detours and distractions along the way. Your goal might change and shift, but you’re still working toward something.

That might sound obvious. But without planning, you’re just adrift, going where the winds blow. If you actually get anywhere, it’ll be sheer dumb luck. That’s where many freelancers find themselves, taking the jobs that come and rarely saying no (WordPress pros Carrie Dils, Daniel Espinoza and Curtis McHale have all talked about the power of saying no).

Being adrift as a freelancer can work. It’s just dangerous. You go where the wind blows and have little control over the destination. And if the wind doesn’t blow? Well, you’re stuck. In many ways, being a drifting freelancer is little different than working for someone else in a full-time job. You might have the illusion of control, but you’re not really taking your future into your hands.

Be a Planning Freelancer

Even if you’re not a super planner, you need to be thinking about the future of your business and how you can get there. Don’t just float along taking whatever comes.

  • Do you want to earn more money?
  • Do you want to work fewer hours?
  • Do you want to take that vacation you’ve always dreamed of?
  • Do you want to do work that has more meaning?

Even if you just want to keep doing what you’re doing, you need to plan to keep that steady stream of work coming.

Potential Goals

So where do you want your business to go?

  • Start Freelancing: Maybe you’re still doing the 9-to-5 job and want to launch your freelance career. How can you get there? Figure out how much income you need, how many clients and projects it will take to get there, what you need to do to make that happen.
  • New Service: Maybe you have an idea for a new service you want to launch. There’s research and testing to do, you need to find a client to serve as a guinea pig, and then you can offer this new service to the public. Then you need to tweak your marketing and actually sell this new service.
  • Shift Direction: Maybe you want to shift your business into a new direction. It starts with small steps—first a new client, then reaching out to a new community, then blogging and sharing as you begin to understand this new niche. Maybe you make a plan to reach out to one new person in your chosen niche each week.
  • More Money: Maybe you want to make more money. You can explore raising your rates or charging by the project. You can start new clients on your new rates today, and slowly bring old clients over. Another approach might be to figure out what work you do is most profitable and pursue more of that type of work in the future.
  • Be Steady: Maybe you just want to bring in more clients and continue doing what you’re doing. You can’t just sit back on your heels and expect success to continue forever. You need a plan to continue networking and meeting prospective clients. Maybe it’s as simple as attending events, meeting people and keeping a close eye on your progress.
  • Expand: Maybe you eventually want to hand off your daily work to employees. That can only happen if you find skilled people you trust. You’re not ready to hire today, but you can start meeting people and building that pipeline of talent. A good first step might be reaching out to local universities to hire an intern—that’s not the level of employee you want, but it’s an easy first step to explore hiring and managing. Plus, in a few years you’ll have a network of up-and-coming talent.

Whatever your goal is, you need to figure out small steps you can take every day to move yourself closer to that goal. If it’s a giant goal, you’ll need to plan out a lot of those small steps to get there. Don’t be overwhelmed by the size of the goal. Just plan accordingly.

Marvel has a larger story they want to tell than a few simple origin stories. They plotted out those arcs and signed actors to multi-film deals. They were flexible enough to recast characters such as the Hulk and James Rhodes as needed or work in Spider-Man.

The result is a slow, methodical march toward their goal of telling great stories (and making a lot of money).

Likewise, entrepreneurs and freelancers need to plan ahead to achieve their goals.

The post How to Plan an Amazing Future the Way Marvel Makes Movies appeared first on iThemes.

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